Advent: Hope

Hope doesn’t offer us all the answers.

Wishing and worrying try to do so. So that’s where we often turn.

We live in a world where there is so much uncertainty, disappointment and pain. In an effort to deal with this, we often take on postures of worrying or wishing. Worriers ask, “What is the worst possible outcome and how do I avoid it?” Wishers daydream about the best possible outcome. They fantasize about a fanciful future – sometimes to numb the pain of the present.

Hope, meanwhile, doesn’t get too caught up in the details of how things are going to unfold in the future.

In Matthew 24, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. The disciples then ask Jesus: “Tell us…when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

When will you return? How will it happen? What can we expect?

The disciples understandably are curious about when and how this is all going down. The worriers are concerned about being ready. Will the end of the age be scary? Will I be prepared? Is everything going to be okay? The wishers are dreaming and imagining what it will be like. They both want details. They both want answers.

But Jesus gives them none.

Instead Jesus says: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Don’t worry about when or how. Just keep watch, stay ready.

For Jesus, it’s not about worrying about how it’s all going to play out. It’s not about wishful thinking about the future. It’s about staying awake. He will come when you do not expect him. His Kingdom is at hand and could break in at any moment.

Our current reality is that the Kingdom of God has come, but it hasn’t been fully realized. It comes like flashes of lightning in the darkness. The birth of a baby. A child’s laughter. An unhurried meal at a long table with close friends and family. A sunrise that takes your breath away. A family member healed of a chronic illness. A joyful thought that pops in your mind out of nowhere that you know is the very spirit of God speaking directly to you. Peace that fills your heart and loosens your tense body after morning prayer.

The Kingdom is visible for those with eyes to see. Christ is making himself known to those who are awake. Hope is available for those who resist the impulse to distractedly wish or hurriedly worry but rather choose to attentively wait.

Don’t worry. Don’t wish. Wake up. Awaken to the present where God is at work. Awaken to the present where God is waiting to fill you with hope. And not a flimsy “holding out hope” or “I sure hope so”. Not a false hope that pretends to answer all your questions. But a hope that, in the words of Eugene Peterson, is “a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said he will do” … because we see signs of his promises being fulfilled even now.

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